News / Africa

Goma Airport Still Closed

People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012. People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.
x
People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.
People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.
Nick Long
Aid agencies are calling for a key airport in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo to be reopened as soon as possible.  The airport at Goma was shut down by fighting two weeks ago but a United Nations official suggests it could now be reopened if the security arrangements are kept simple.  
 
Having no working airport would be serious for any city of nearly a million people.  For a city with 140,000 displaced people living around it and ongoing military activity the closure could cost lives if vital supplies cannot be flown in quickly.

Most aid to Goma comes by road and the borders are still open, but some medical and food supplies have to come by air.  United Nations agencies have appealed to the M23 rebels controlling Goma to let aid flights land there.

"We have had formal discussions with M23 to ask them to let the airport open," explained Barbara Shenstone, who heads the DRC office of OCHA, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  "The airport is important for vital medical supplies, and to be able to bring people in and out."

Shenstone told VOA that the M23 said it was willing to open the airport and was in discussions with the U.N. stabilization mission MONUSCO over how this would work.  MONUSCO still has troops at the airport, who blocked M23's attempts to capture it.

But talks at the regional level in Uganda's capital appear to be causing delays.  A regional proposal is on the table to station a mixed force at Goma airport consisting of contingents from M23, the Congolese army and a neutral country.

"I think it's got slightly complicated by the agreement that was reached in Kampala where there were different arrangements proposed for the airport and the possibility of a small international force.  That has kind of stalled the opening of the airport," she said.

Aid workers restarted food distributions to displaced people in and around Goma this week.  Some 81,000 out of an estimated 140,000 displaced people in the area received food rations for three days, and regular blanket distributions are planned.

The U.N. humanitarian office says the rations are tailored to immediate needs, as many people may soon go home to their villages, where harvesting should now be taking place.  

In the past, rebel movements in Congo's North Kivu province have ordered displaced people to go home.  Shenstone said the U.N. would advise against any such policy.

"It's true that the M23 generally doesn't think that camps are a good idea, and they may have ideas about this.  But as the humanitarian community we would discourage them from any attempt to forcibly move people.  It's not right.  You could be forcing people into further distress or danger.  The whole idea of forcible returns is just a very bad one," she said.

Aid workers have been under pressure in Congo.  After the fall of Goma, international aid workers were targeted by protesters and rioters in several cities.  In one city, Bunia, expatriates were chased out of their houses, had their homes looted and their cars wrecked.  

But the head of OCHA in DRC says these outbreaks of violence should be put in perspective.

"Humanitarians in eastern Congo are often in danger.  In North Kivu in the last six months there have been 162 incidents recorded where non-governmental organizations [NGOs] were attacked on the road or had their goods stolen.  Has there been an upsurge of this in the last two weeks?  No.  The real immediate danger NGOs face is being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, the same danger the population faces," said Shenstone.

The humanitarian appeal for DRC for 2012 was for $791 million and with the year nearly over that appeal is only 60 percent funded. Shenstone told VOA that the country is in a state of chronic crisis but she said it doesn't have the same weight with donors as other conflagrations such as Syria or Afghanistan, or the same strategic interest.

While a truce appears to be holding for the moment, the OCHA head of office in Congo predicts that violence will continue to flare up unless the country's deep, underlying problems are addressed.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid